There’s no shortage of star power in Group F, which could make it one of the more competitive groups at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Here’s a look at all four teams:
Coach: Hervé Renard
Highest finish: Fourth (2011)
2019 finish: Quarterfinal
Key players: Kadidiatou Diani, Grace Geyoro, Wendie Renard
What we’re excited to watch: Goals change games, and Kadidiatou Diani is capable of exactly that. At 28, she is in her prime and has the opportunity to shine on the world stage.
What success looks like: Semifinals. After a disappointing quarterfinal exit on home soil four years ago at the hands of the United States, France hopes to get back on track. The task will be tough, from topping the group over a talented Brazil side to navigating a loaded side of the bracket in the knockout stage.
Achilles’ heel: Can this team keep clean sheets? Despite the longtime presence of towering Wendie Renard, defending has been at a premium at times for the French. Goalkeeping has also been a question mark, including at the World Cup four years ago. Personnel has since changed, but similar questions loom.
X-Factor: Will this team be galvanized by change? Hervé Renard (yes, THAT Hervé Renard) was named coach only in late March after the sacking of Corinne Diacre due to a player revolt. The coaching change brought with it the commitment of several key players (although Amandine Henry will miss the World Cup due to injury) and a positive change to the mood around the team.
2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup: France Team Preview with Alexi Lalas
Coach: Pia Sundhage
Highest finish: Runner-up (2007)
2019 finish: Round of 16
Key players: Debinha, Kerolin, Marta
What we’re excited to watch: How will Pia Sundhage’s tactics blend with Brazilian talent? Since she took over in 2019, Sundhage has brought her mix of defensively sound Swedish style and the mentality piece that she picked up while coaching the U.S. to a pair of Olympic gold medals. Brazil has never been short on attacking flair, but defensive discipline has lacked. Sundhage fills that gap… possibly enough to win the whole tournament.
What success looks like: The elusive World Cup title. The second-place finish in 2007 still stings, and it seems almost criminal that for all the talented players and teams Brazil has produced through the years, the program has neither won an Olympic gold medal nor a Women’s World Cup title.
Achilles’ heel: Consistency. On its best day, Brazil is unplayable. On other days? Well, that marrying of styles Sundhage is aiming for can look a little off. Recent results against top teams vary from an impressive win over Germany to some flat losses against the U.S. and Canada.
X-Factor: Marta confirmed that this will be her sixth and final World Cup. The six-time world player of the year is no longer the focal point of the team but she is still a game-changing talent. Her teammates have said explicitly that they want to win the World Cup for her, much like a Lionel Messi-led Argentina won the Men’s World Cup in December. Could that be the extra motivation to push Brazil to the top of the podium? The talent is there.
2023 Women’s World Cup: Brazil Team Preview with Alexi Lalas
Coach: Lorne Donaldson
Highest finish: Group stage (2019)
2019 finish: Group stage
Key players: Khadija Shaw, Jody Brown, Allyson Swaby
What we’re excited to watch: “Bunny,” in a word. Shaw finished second in goals scored in England’s WSL last season with 20, two off the pace of Rachel Daly. Shaw is electric for Manchester City and can change games for Jamaica.
What success looks like: Winning a group game. Jamaica lost all three games at its World Cup debut in 2019, scoring only once while conceding 12 times. A rare intercontinental meeting with Panama in the group stage (thanks to Panama’s advancement from the global playoff) is a must-win game for each team.
Achilles’ heel: Defending. The Swaby sisters will need to be at their best for Jamaica to succeed. There is goal-scoring talent on this roster, but they concede too many goals as it stands. They gave up three in each of their three matches in an Australia friendly tournament in February – understandable against Spain and the hosts, but less so against the Czech Republic.
X-Factor: Jamaica is one on a the long list of teams in fights with their federations prior to the tournament over lack of preparation and funding. Players created a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for their preparations. They’ve lacked adequate preparation or recent friendly matches, which will challenge them to be at their best.
2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup: Jamaica Team Preview with Alexi Lalas
Coach: Ignacio Quintana
Highest finish: First appearance
2019 finish: Did not qualify
Key players: Marta Cox, Yenith Bailey, Karla Riley
What we’re excited to watch: Astute viewers of the 2019 qualifying tournament will remember then teenage goalkeeper Yenith Bailey standing on her head to get Panama to the global playoff. She was so good that even after a 5-0 loss to the United States, she was considered the star who kept it close, with U.S. players praising her afterward.
What success looks like: Winning a game. Just being there is a step in the right direction for Panama, now in its first major tournament. The game against Jamaica is winnable and three points for either team (they play in the second group game) would give it hope for a miracle at the conclusion of the group stage.
Achilles’ heel: What does the defense look like in front of Bailey? Panama is known for frequently playing a five-back, which sometimes works (see the 1-0 win over Paraguay to secure a spot in the final tournament) and sometimes does not at all (see the recent 7-0 loss to Spain).
X-Factor: Marta Cox. She is not that Marta, but the player who turns 26 on the opening day of the World Cup is the player most capable of dragging her team to a result and causing trouble for Brazil or France.
2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup: Panama team preview with Alexi Lalas
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.
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